How much fabric is needed for a slipcover depends, of course, on the size and shape of the piece of furniture being covered. However, the appropriate fabric dimensions also depend heavily on the style of slipcover being sewn. For instance, a slipcover design for a chair may include several gathered portions below the seat, which might double the amount of fabric needed in that area (depending on the size and frequency of the gathers).
As a general rule, the amount of fabric needed for a simple slipcover will be equal to the surface area measurements of the top and sides of the furniture item, plus an extension of about one inch per pattern piece side, for the sake of seams. Always measure your furniture's dimensions using a dressmaker's tape measure in order to accurately account for the curves and cushions.
Making a Mock-Up
One excellent way to determine how much fabric your slipcover will require is to make a mock-up cover using scraps. To do this, simply use newspaper or old sheets or blankets to draft a pattern, then cut and assemble the pieces to cover the item. Use clear or masking tape for the newspaper pieces or safety pins for the pieces of bed sheet. When drafting and assembling sample patterns, always bear in mind that you will need to leave room for the seams.
After you've drafted pieces big enough to cover your item in the way you want them to, simply disassemble your mock-up and bring the pieces with you to the fabric store. In order to find out how much fabric you'll need, simply roll out a length from a bolt of fabric and lay the pieces on it before cutting. Once you've rolled out enough fabric for all the pieces to fit, you'll know you've reached the right fabric length.
Once you've figured out the bare minimum amount of fabric you will need for your slipcover, it's always a good idea to get at least 20 percent extra in order to account for margin of error. If you're a less experienced sewer or if your pattern is particularly tricky, buy even more than this. You may also decide that you want a two-ply slipcover (a good idea for durability or with sheer fabric) or that you want to make two slipcovers (one for use while the other is being washed). In this case, buy twice as much fabric.
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